Throw Back to Basics: Rural Water Supply

By Brian Zaitz

Rural or limited water supply situations can face any fire department in America (yes, ANY fire department). Often, we associate the use of drafting or drop tanks with rural operations because of a lack of hydrants. However, imagine the main breaks in your area and renders your hydrants out of service. What is your solution?

RELATED: Rossi on Water Supply TacticsShapiro on Managing the Urban Water SupplyBachman on Ensuring Your Water Supply

The key to any water supply situation is to preplan for the normal operation as well as practice for the variations. If we practice and prepare for the times we need to troubleshoot, then we will not have such stress when we need to implement Plan B or Plan C.


Rural or limited water supply situations are manageable. However, they require understanding, focus, and training. These operations require a coordinated effort, similar to that of fire attack and ventilation; the water supply officer must be in constant communication with the operations officer to monitor fire flow and water needs to ensure that the water supply can meet those needs. These situations are dependent on the small details such as drop tank placement, apparatus parking, and equipment operating correctly.


This training bulletin is not so much a “how-to” but more indicative of critical thinking. When was the last time your truck and engineer pulled a draft? What is your rural water supply plan? Does it include the use of drop tanks? If so, how many, and what is their placement? Do you have predetermined fill sites? Have you trained with mutual/automatic aid partners to ensure everyone is on the same page related to water supply?

These limited or rural water supply situations are challenging, but through training, preplanning, and communication, they can be handled in a highly efficient and effective manner.

Download this drill as a PDF HERE (279 KB)


Brian Zaitz is a 14-year student of the fire service, currently assigned as the captain/training officer with the Metro West (MO) Fire Protection District. Brian is an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC as well as instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy.  Brian holds several degrees, including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelors in fire science management, and a masters in human resource development. Brian is currently and accredited chief training officer and student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.


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